Stepping back in time, I remember as a kid entering old courthouses and libraries where the musty, vanilla-like smell fills the room and the continual click of microfiche breaks the silence.
My parents both did genealogy. We had an entire walk in closet dedicated to the books, the copies, and the old photos that comprised my family’s past. So it’s absolutely no surprise that when we went on long road-trip vacations, we hit up every courthouse and cemetery along the way, tracing the steps of those gone before us.
Even before I could read, I was sitting alongside my mom looking at the gentles sweeps of what must have been a marvelous quill pen inside of these giant dusty antique books.
Now I have little ones and want to pass on this love of personal, family history and continue to build the family tree with my kids.
How to explore simple genealogy and families trees with young learners
The history teacher in me knows that it’s important for even kindergarteners to be able to have a basic concept who which comes first and putting a rough timeline together.
So start by leading a discussion that connects relationships such as asking “who is dad’s dad?” and help them grasp how we’re all intertwined as family. You can even work on charting it out together to make a visual representation of just the family they know.
Either way that particular portion is all about exploring the different ways family trees and the timeline of personal history can look.
How to make a natural materials family tree with kids
We took it a step past the family tree in our family and friends printable pack and went ahead and made our own family tree from leaves and sticks just so that with my kindergartener, she could have a tactile and hands-on approach to learning.
It also more-easily correlates for children when we say it’s a “branch off the family tree”.
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What you need to construct your stick & leaf timeline
- A white Galaxy Marker or Chalkboard Pen
- Leaves of various sizes and colors if desired
- Poster board or a roll of white paper
- Small twigs and sticks.
Simple family timeline construction ideas
So just as discussed in our printable pack, family tress and timelines can look however we wish and no two are the same because of family history.
We personally chose to work on a roll of paper so we could continue to roll it out as we added more and more people. It added to the excitement and visual of “going back in history” for my daughter.
Before you start, simple brainstorm people in the family and not even necessarily in order or with any rhyme or reason. Write them on a sheet of paper and then go on a gathering mission in your backyard or a local park with lots of trees.
Leaves that aren’t crunchy already are best so they don’t break in the process of making the historical timeline. Then, depending on how well your child can write or handle writing on leaves, s/he or you can write each of the names on the leaves with your white pen.
Then start constructing!
We personally decided to group people together first and glue those on. Then we connected the groups of people to one another. Remember, there are no rules to building your tree as long as there’s a simple explanation of why it was done the way it was!
As you glue on leaves and twigs, it almost feels like you’re literally climbing a family tree as it’s being built.
Once done, you can let your kids draw details on it, so maybe it’s an apple tree and then they can draw apples representing pets too.
The sky is the limit; let your student’s imagination take over!
Explore our learning resources!
Plus, more resources on learning with leaves
- Fall Leaves Printable Play Dough Mat Pack from Play Dough & Popsicles
- Festive Fall Children’s Books about Leaves from Crafty Mama in ME
- Learn About Leaves from Faith and Good Works
- The Sugar Science of Autumn Leaves from FrogMom
- Leaf Activities for Kids from Look! We’re Learning!
- Leaf Science Activities for Kids from iGameMom
- Leaves Read and Play from My Storytime Corner
- Leaf Chromatography STEM Activity: Remove Color from Leaves! from Schooling a Monkey
- Why Do Leaves Change Colors? from Slap Dash Mom
- Fibonacci Fall LEGO Garden from Planet Smarty Pants
Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!